“Does this look good on me?” That’s a question Imran Amed (MBA 2002) heard frequently when he was growing up in Calgary, Canada, no doubt because friends and family quickly learned he was often insightful, on target, and honest in his response. “Never in a million years did I think that would be a skill I could use in my career,” Amed says by phone from London.
In fact, Amed has developed a worldwide following by employing those very same qualities. Launched in 2007, his website The Business of Fashion attracts more than 200,000 visitors each month for its savvy take on a global industry that is evolving with dizzying speed. In addition to original content (Amed employs a small team of international editors and freelance writers), the site offers an edited daily digest of five fashion-related stories from other publications.
With a longtime interest in singing and drama, Amed did mention wanting to work in a “creative industry” on his HBS application, but his path to that goal was not direct. After graduation, he worked at McKinsey, consulting for companies all over Europe. “I had a couple of amazing years,” he says, “but the most creative outlet I had was how pretty my PowerPoint looked. I thought there might be something more I could do by marrying my right-brain and left-brain abilities.”
As he approached his 30th birthday, Amed knew he had to take a risk. He quit his job and began exploring the music, television, and film industries. “Those industries had been disrupted by digital media, for the most part, and they had already figured out how to bring in professional management. In fashion, it wasn’t so simple.”
Amed began meeting with young British designers and networking. For nine months, he worked on a start-up incubator that offered expertise and capital to young designers. That didn’t pan out, but it did lead to consulting work for some luxury and fashion brands in Paris. At the same time, he began writing down his ideas on a blog. “It cost $100 to set up,” he recalls. “I posted once or twice a week with no particular objective in mind. It was really just a means to help me form and develop my ideas. The first month, I sent it to 20 or 30 friends. That’s the only marketing I ever did for it.”
Since then, the Business of Fashion has grown steadily at a rate of over 100 percent annually, serving as the go-to source of behind-the-scenes business information for industry executives and fashionistas alike. Amed, who made British GQ’s list of the 100 most influential men in Britain in 2011, attributes much of that success to the relationships he developed at HBS. “I was uncertain about HBS for the first four months,” he recalls. “Everyone was seemingly so confident and accomplished. I’m a small guy with a big personality. At first it was hard to be that person. But over time I realized that everyone felt that way; it wasn’t just me.” A lead role in the HBS Show was another eye-opener: “Rediscovering that part of me and sharing it with my classmates was an amazing experience,” he says. “I saw how much creativity there was on campus and how many other people had the same interests and background.
“My HBS friends have been so supportive,” Amed continues, noting that he recently returned to campus for his 10th Reunion. “More than anything else, it’s the relationships I built there that have made me much more confident and comfortable in taking the entrepreneurial path. When I talk to students or alumni, I tell them that HBS offers us the experience, the network, the brand, and the confidence to do our own thing. And we should.”